Great Dane jazzes it up
Great Dane jazzes it up

The Greek word phronesis means the virtue of practical thought - or in a layman's translation it means wisdom or moral purity.

The concept of wisdom and virtue appealed to Danish musician Jasper Hoiby when he was searching for a name for his jazz trio.

"I didn't want to call it the Jasper Hoiby trio, or something generic that musicians put their own name to," says Hoiby, who moved from Copenhagen to London in his late teens to further his training as a jazz musician.

"Phronesis is an appropriate name because it describes the wisdom you can only achieve through experience."

The trio was born out of Hoiby's training as a jazz musician at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he spent four years as an undergraduate.

It is not well-known that the Royal Academy, famous for its training of classical musicians, turns out jazz artists as well.

"Yes, it's a very famous course for jazz," says Hoiby on the phone from his home in London. "But it's very selective; they only choose enough musicians to form a jazz ensemble each year, and they go through the course together. There's one saxophone player, one pianist and so on. I auditioned as a bass player, and was lucky enough to get in." Hoiby admits that he came relatively late to the world of jazz, preferring hip-hop as his musical style of choice as a teenager. "But I really ate up everything - pop, funk and fusion, as well, and they led me to jazz," he says. "I found I was no longer interested in hip-hop when it became very angry and I found jazz much more satisfying."

After his graduation from the Royal Academy of Music, Hoiby decided to stay on in London to further his career - teaming up with British pianist Ivo Neame and Swedish drummer Anton Eger to form Phronesis.

Breaking into the world of European jazz is not an easy task, but they were prepared to play the clubs and pubs around London and in Scandinavia to become known.

They also took the risk of performing only Hoiby's own compositions, determined from the outset to set their own style of playing rather than offer cover versions of the jazz classics. "Now we all contribute to the repertoire," he says.

Any new jazz outfit needs a recording career to heighten audience appreciation, so Phronesis joined a group of young artists known as the Loop Collective who had set up their own record label.

It was virtually a DIY operation that allowed artists to make their own records using the basic infrastructure of the label at minimal cost. The group's first two albums, Organic Warfare and Green Delay set the pattern for their highly textured and layered improvisations that have become their distinctive style. After two DIY recordings with Loop, Phronesis signed to the Welsh label Editions.

Enthused one critic of their recording Green Delay: "Hoiby and Anton Eger on drums form a cohesive foundation. The bassist always finds a simple way to anchor the music.

"Pianist Ivo Neame is able to flow freely when the time comes, reaching impressively understated heights with his canny improvisations. He doesn't slam, he doesn't smash, but a clear stream of ideas is detectable through every solo . . . no one jumps to the front. It's an extended dialogue between equal partners."

Hoiby says: "We made a decision when we started not to play cover versions, because as soon as you do you sound like everyone else. Everyone is free to play as he likes, we're very open-minded."

Ron Banks

'Phronesis

is an appropriate name because it describes the wisdom you can only achieve through experience.'


The West Australian

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